CELLAR FULL OF SONG
Newcastle Upon Tyne
These nights in the basement go under the banner of A Cellar Full Of Song and that was certainly true of this evening. There was a fair turn out when Nev Clay and his 12 string guitar kicked off just before 9pm. Nev has a real laid back approach and his humorous monologues about songs ranging from tattoo removals to beggars in Metro stations enlighten the audience.
More upfront is Steve Daggett playing material from his album Troubadour Territory. Steve's song-writing territory lies somewhere between the England of Ray Davies (Cybercafe), America of Gram Parsons (Always on my mind) and the Celtic folk-roots of Mike Scott (Mandolin Moon). I've heard the album and it's a diverse but charming collection of songs (well worth checking out CRACK review, MAY) and the live performance tonight equalled it. Steve really knows how to work a room and seems to be playing gigs in the area a lot lately so try and get to see him.
A short interval, background music courtesy of Ron Sexsmith and a very welcome hot buffet supper arrives (great idea) before Bex Mather takes to the 'stage'. Accompanied by acoustic guitarist Dan and trumpeter Graham, they ran rapidly through a short set of original songs. Bex has some voice and used it to great effect, particularly on the number 'Breathe'. She released a slow, gentle note that sustained for what seemed like bars and bars of delicate acoustic guitar phrases. Bex is quite capable of taking the Kathryn Williams route to success and most of the songs tonight will surely make it on to her debut album that she is currently recording.
A great evening of original songs, played in a rather small but interesting venue of which I'll make a point of visiting again.
LIVE AT THE 12BAR CLUB
Denmark Street, London
Steve Daggett is here at the 12 bar tonight to play some songs from his new cd Troubadour Territory which has created much interest in his native North East and has already won some excellent reviews. His set opens with NEW SKIN with softly spoken verses over a dampened acoustic guitar, opening up on the choruses and ending with a vocal crescendo that wins deserved appreciation from the audience. The harmonica of ALWAYS ON MY MIND reverberates around the room with echoes of Neil Young's HARVEST era. COUNTRY JUNKIE is finger-picking fragile and hushes the crowd as does LIVE YOUR LIFE YOUR OWN WAY. If there is any justice this song would be covered by some major artist in the future. CYBER CAFÉ is preceded by an amusing story around the conception of the lyric "you're freaks, go get some paint and a canvas, you're geeks searching your engines for answers" set to a lilting 6/8 guitar rhythm.
Daggett's departure from his latest release comes in the shape of an anecdote about his days on the road with folk rockers Lindisfarne, tales of excess and as Daggett puts it "Alan Hull's pursuit of the perfect pint". The opening chords sound strangely familiar, could it be? yes it is! LADY ELEANOR, Hull's gothic anthem that made it from Tyneside to Top of The Pops in the early '70's. It's a faithful interpretation of the quality performance Hull would have given. JANUARY SONG follows and Daggett toasts Hull's memory with a bottle of Newcastle Brown held aloft. He launches straight back into his own material with THIS TIME OF YEAR, played as if he has some kind of funky band in his head, beating the guitar body whilst narrating the lyric. Closing with another original MANDOLIN MOON, Daggett jovially crashes the cymbals of the Hank Dogs' drum kit with the guitar head stock during a raucous finish.
Daggett is a performing song-writer who defies categorisation. His influences obviously lie in '60's song writing tradition but adds his own blend of irony and wit. As a fellow Geordie I appreciate his relaxed intimate delivery and thoroughly enjoyed his live performance.
Douglas Gray - ONLINE TV
STEVE DAGGETT ELECTRIC BAND
Smugglers, Roker, Sunderland, 17/11/2001
Arriving later than planned I was surprised to find such a packed Smugglers. For a cold November Saturday this was a hell of a crowd. Whilst Steve Daggett is a regular acoustic solo act in the area, his first electric gig in 17 years has been a long time coming. They were all here tonight to see Daggett rocking in Roker and fronting his own band again.
Steve opened in typical style with 4 acoustic songs, 3 from his CD 'Troubadour Territory' and one new song 'Pretty Useless' which quietened the ever-growing audience. His band then joined him for 2 rousing versions of album tracks 'New skin' and 'This time of year' followed by the laid back Dylanish 'Just to see you smile'.
The punters quickly got behind the new line-up of Phil Armstrong on guitar, Steve Martin on fretless bass and Jeff Armstrong on drums. Daggett told us the band had only a couple of rehearsals - but we wouldn't have guessed. They were tight and together and it was obvious they were enjoying themselves tonight. Still more people arrived, squeezing into the already packed bar while Daggett grabbed the gig by the scruff of the neck and gave it his all, belting out a good mix of old and new material. A cover of Waylon Jennings' 'Are you sure Hank done it this way?' finished the first set, by which time the band were really rocking and the sweat, enthusiasm and beer flowed.
After a short break Daggett gave us 3 Alan Hull songs followed by his own 'Mandolin Moon'. Six years to the day since Hull's death, the song really does justice to both songwriters. Then we were back with what they had all come to see - Daggett swapping his acoustic for a stratocaster and letting his hair down, literally. They finished with a great version of Neil Young's epic 'Cowgirl in the sand' to huge applause and appreciation.
Well this rare event was a treat. A great pub, a great atmosphere, a great crowd and a great band. It's a shame we had to wait so long to see Daggett front a band again. Here's hoping we don't have to wait another 17 years for the next Steve Daggett Band.